While trauma recovery seems like a chaotic experience, I have noticed in hindsight the surprising structure it seems to follow. My memory recovery follows themes. While I do address themes multiple times, it is at progressively deeper levels, as if I am traveling a spiral. I have also noticed how my external and internal world mirror each other, and it gets much more intense as I come closer to a new realization or belief change. I have also noticed that the inner parts get older and more defended as I work through recovery. It isn’t that my memories follow a linear age, but the beliefs become more sophisticated and complicated over time. There seems to be an understanding that I need practice. And I continually progress toward more challenging recovery experiences. Now, I am not suggesting it works this way for everyone. I am suggesting that my higher self is particularly organized, which may explain why organization is my defense mechanism of choice.
But recently, I have noticed another pattern. And it does seem to be a bit more universal, as other survivors are telling me the same. When I started recovery, I was focused on setting boundaries. And I practiced and practiced. I wasn’t intentionally clearing people out of my life, but when I said no, the people who had been in my life didn’t like it at all. So they left. I also realized that certain situations and life circumstances were not working either. I started to leave some things behind. I came to a place where I could say no well.
But as I have been working with my inner teenager lately, I have been faced with my resistance to life. It seems that I have been avoiding the yes part of life. I have also noticed that saying yes to life is substantially harder than saying no. And there are a couple of reasons for that.
1) Saying yes requires trust. Don’t get me wrong. After years of abuse which was far worse when I fought it, saying no required trust too. I had to trust that I would not get punched in the head when I told my friend I didn’t want to go out that night. That being said, saying yes requires trust on another level: the life level. I have to trust that life won’t take advantage of my yes by retaliating and throwing failure after failure at me. Of course, failure is a normal part of life, but I am speaking of the kind of failure that creates destitution and hopelessness, the kind of failure I am used to.
2) Saying yes requires the understanding that I have a future. I can still sense the part of me that believes suicide is always an answer if things get bad enough. And in many ways, I have not planned to be around for more than a couple of years. The sense that my time is limited was ingrained at an early age and it is a hard one to break.
3) Saying yes requires me to feel worthy of something great. I have to admit, my ideas are a bit grandiose. But who dreams small? Our actions might be small, but our dreams aren’t. I want big things. I want to make the biggest difference possible. I want to do things that defy all of my defense mechanisms and fears. But am I worth that kind of accomplishment? I intellectually know I am. I know I am just as worthy as anyone else. But a part of me is still undecided.
4) Saying yes requires me to feel safe. This work can be seen as a bit dangerous. Abusers are often seen as much more powerful by their child victims. And that image can stay with us in the adult years. In reality, pedophiles and child abusers are the weakest of humanity. I intellectually know that. But my child part remembers the abuse, the nastiness and the threats. I also have to trust that my abusers won’t try to sabotage what I am doing. Or if they do, that they won’t succeed. That is a significant power shift, and while it is possible and even likely, it is hard to accept.
So as I travel this recovery path, I do know that I will take the steps necessary to make my dreams a reality. I know it for a fact. That proverbial train has left the station. But it takes cooperation with the part of me that doesn’t think this life has anything amazing in store for her. It takes an understanding between the parts that find this to be the scariest step ever taken. It takes a willingness to take back my power despite having no proof that life will respond differently. It takes trust to say yes to life.